Monday, March 15, 2010

Konichiwa Tokyo!

We have arrived!

After what seemed like a never-ending trip, we are finally in Tokyo! We got up at 4:00am EST in Indianapolis, took a 7:15am flight to O’hare, a 10:15am flight to Tokyo-Narita and then a train to our hotel. We got to the hotel on Saturday at 5:30pm Tokyo time. Since I have a difficult time sleeping on planes, I was more than ready to go to bed last night. Once we arrived we got settled in the hotel and then met for dinner at 7:30pm. We had no clue where to go so we walked around aimlessly for a while. We were in a group of 11 and decided we needed to spilt up since there weren’t any Japanese restaurants that could handle a group of our size. I spilt off with 4 other girls to eat. Some woman on the street started blabbering in Japanese and insisted that we follow her. A girl in my group fell for it and the woman then led us to the restaurant she works for. We were fooled. We sat down and the lady immediately asked us if we wanted beer. We took a pass. Luckily, well somewhat, the menu had photos. We pointed at what we wanted. We ended up with edamame, an egg dish, a noodle/stir fry dish and eggplant covered with dried fish flakes. Yum! It was all small portions, so we then went to the convenience store downstairs to get some more food. After our delicious C-store meal I was more than ready to hit the hay.

This morning we were able to sleep in a bit. I woke up at 8:30, went downstairs to a coffee shop to get a croissant and then met the group at 9:45am to leave. We went to a neighborhood called Asakusa. It’s filled with great souvenir shops and old Shinto shrines. The souvenir-lined street is also sprinkled with some food vendors. We tried moshi balls. It’s padded down rice, filled with a bean paste and fried. I got the apricot flavor and sampled a bit of my friend’s sesame one. They were delicious and only 100 yen or just over a dollar. After indulging in our moshi, we continued on to the shrines. They were beautiful. Outside of the main shrine were these beautiful gardens. We explored those and then looked at more of the food vendors. We saw some interesting cuisine, the most shocking being octopus.

Everywhere we went we got looks for being American. People love us. It’s really funny. I heard several Japanese women sneeze so I said, “bless you.” They thought it was the most hilarious thing ever. Needless to say, I’m making a ton of Japanese friends. We also met some kids all dressed up in different costumes. We made sure to take some photos with them. For lunch we went to this really neat restaurant. We all tried uniguiri, rice balls filled with salmon and covered with seaweed. Delish! After lunch it was time to meet up with the group.

From there we headed to the 100-yen store (or dollar store.) We met a girl around our age. Her parents are friends with my professor and his wife. Her aunt was with her, too. It was really cute; I mentioned I wanted to get chapstick with kangi (Japanese lettering) on it and they found it for me at the store and bought it for me! I also purchased some stationary at the 100-yen store. I was standing at the counter ready to check out and a man came up to me and started speaking in Japanese and pointing at my stationary. He was also making a praying gesture. I didn’t understand so my new Japanese friend Arina stepped in. She informed me that the stationary I picked out was a funeral card. Oops. That being the case, I switched it out.

After visiting Asakusa, I went with 7 other kids to Akihabara, the electronics district. We wondered around for a while, walking into arcades and a store that I would compare to Best Buy on crack. This store had everything! It was 9 stories high and a block long. After exploring most of it a friend and I decided to camp out in the massage chairs. It was glorious, and a much needed break for our feet. However, we had some trouble securing our chairs. My friend Lexi sat down first. I asked if I could sit next to her and was told to wait, granted I couldn’t really understand since she was speaking Japanese, but it sounded like wait. I think she wanted us to switch off sitting in the chair. There were still a ton of other open chairs, so I went up to another woman and asked if I could sit down. She pointed me to the a chair three chairs down, which coincidentally happened to be the cheapest one, to sit down. We got the impression that they worked for commission and didn’t want us hogging their chairs. Either way, it was a much needed and wonderful break.

On our way back to the subway we stopped at 31 flavors. I couldn’t resist getting some green tea ice cream. From 31 flavors we took the train back to the hotel. From there we decided it was time for dinner. I went to a ramen restaurant with two classmates. I ordered a wonderful noodle soup and we spilt gyoza (dumplings.) Now we’re back in the hotel room and I’m attempting to load my 100+ photos on to my computer. Unfortunately, the fee for internet in the room is pretty high, so I’m hoping to go to the business center to use their computers there.

Thus far, Tokyo has been amazing. I’m looking forward to the days to come and our new adventures.